What Comes Between Black Friday and Cyber Monday?

Last year, we published a Small Business Saturday article that provided an overview of the history of the event as well as the potential importance, offering a glimpse at some of the strategies that could be used by small businesses to link this celebration to their brand.

That was last year, which now seems like a decade ago! 

Over 50 million confirmed Covid-19 global cases later, including over 10 million in the United States (see data), most small businesses have had to face incredible challenges as many countries closed down their economies in order to slow the progress of the pandemic.

While a truly unfortunate number of smaller operations have now permanently closed their doors, we need to take a moment this Small Business Saturday to celebrate the survivors . . . and support them in whatever means are available to us.

Expanded Internet activities.  Free delivery.  New products (maybe even including personal protective gear).  Go Fund Me initiatives.  Special Governmental programs.  All of these strategies and so many more have been essential to the continued existence of the survivors.

While statistics clearly indicate that a second wave of the pandemic is upon us and caution that the upcoming holidays will require us to practice some self-restraint, we feel confident that small businesses will survive while still managing to practice governmental safety standards.  Hopefully, by Small Business Saturday 2021 on November 27th, one or more vaccines will have been released and administered to a sufficiently large number of people to put this pandemic behind us for once and for all.

In the meantime, we will not use this article to do more than serve as a cheerleader for small businesses (including that of my blogging partner – Instant Invitation).  Instead, we will invite you to reread our story from last year and to check out some other valuable repositories of information and strategies.

Nicolas Straut, a contributing writer at Fundera, has put together an overview of Small Business Saturday

https://www.fundera.com/blog/small-business-saturday

Similarly, American Express, which founded the day and holds the registered trademark, makes a wide variety of useful resources available, including a Shop Small campaign:

https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/shop-small/

https://www.americanexpress.com/us/merchant/shop-small.html#toolkit?linknav=us-loy-homepage-visittheshopsmallstudio

Nestled between Black Friday (a tradition which also appears to be undergoing transformations during this time of social distancing) and Cyber Monday, which continues to grow in size and significance, the role and importance of Small Business Saturday cannot be lost.

How to Market Your Small Business During Coronavirus Pandemic

GUEST BLOG INTRODUCTION: Just as business was gradually opening up a bit, new Coronavirus cases have increased dramatically worldwide. Marketing advice for small businesses trying to navigate this unprecedented territory is extremely important. We thank our guest blogger, Kally Tay, for her insights. Having more than 20 years as a manager in various industries, she founded a career website to help others to thrive in their jobs. Featured on numerous platforms such as WordPress Editor’s Pick and AllWomensTalk, her website MiddleMe.net discusses difficult and sensitive issues like workplace abuse and discord among coworkers while providing practical advice on how to handle those situations. We encourage you to read more about her in her bio.

Photo by tirachardz

The coronavirus pandemic has definitely changed the way many businesses conduct their business. They are now forced to try out several strategies to help them keep afloat, especially now that people are not going out to shop due to the fear of the virus.

Small businesses have it rough most of all because they have limited options available to guide them through the pandemic. Fortunately, these options are enough for small businesses to create an effective marketing strategy for their business to remain afloat even during this crisis.

To help you out, here are some ways on how you can do it in the most efficient way:

Always Focus On Open Communication

Maintaining an open communication with clients has always been a major marketing strategy for businesses even before the pandemic. It is a way to show customers that they are open for business and can assist with their daily needs.

But, with the pandemic changing the way businesses do business, having an active and open communication can help customers know you are still available for clients. Keep your customers updated through social media, text and even through your website and let them know what services you have to offer. You can even post your contact details on Google’s My Business Directory so people can search you more easily if they need a certain product or services.

Show How You Can Help During This Pandemic

When you are showcasing your business to customers, they don’t look at the promises you offer them. They remember you with the services and products that you offer. Since they can’t see your products and services in person because of the pandemic, you can show that your services and products still matter during this time.

To do this, spotlight the products and services that can help improve customer lives during this pandemic. Be honest and sincere when doing your campaign and provide discounts for frontliners and anyone working in the field in your area.

Check Out Your Loyal Customers

Got loyal customers who always check your products and services? If you do, do they know that you are still in business despite the pandemic. If they don’t know you are open, how can you rake in sales and stop them from trying out other brands that offer the same stuff as you do?

Check out your loyal customer database and reach out to them through social media or email. Since the pandemic has closed down many businesses, competition is not very fierce and you can use this opportunity to ramp up your brand for new users. Use the time wisely and you can definitely rake in these clients easily to your midst.

Put The Customer First

In business, the adage “the customer is always right” is a constant thing that must be followed religiously. During this time of pandemic, it opens up a great opportunity for your business to reach out to your customers and see how they are doing.

Since people are not allowed out, especially those who are vulnerable to the disease, they depend on businesses and other content creators to give them something to look forward to. They use the content to alleviate their fears and also pass the time because they exhausted everything they can do at home.

With this in mind, you can give your customers tips on how they can use their time wisely at home with the help of the products or services you have to offer. You can also offer advice on other things related to your business that your customers may not have realized before. For example, if you are offering your accountant services before, you can put in advice on your website regarding how they can save money even while at home.

Boost Your Social Media Presence

For several small businesses, it is no longer plausible for customers to visit you in your brick and mortar stores because of social distancing and other coronavirus prevention measures. If you want to keep people still checking out your offerings, you will need to find other ways to sell your product or services.

Social media is a great place to do this, especially now that people are looking online for everything they need. Customers can check your social media pages for what you offer and reach out if you need it. However, if your social media page isn’t up-to-date or your campaign strategy is all wrong, then it can be hard to get the conversion you need to make a profit. Look into how you update your social media and provide credible information that visitors need. If you stay consistent with your brand and offer relevant information, visitors will definitely check your brand often and peruse your products and services.

Use Your Creative Mind To Think Of New Ideas

With many people now stuck at home and running out of things to do, it is a great way for small businesses to offer solutions to this problem.

You can start selling things like coloring kits or startup planting kits for customers to use on their idle time or offer tutorials on how to photo edit or produce the next big viral hit. It doesn’t have to be related to your business. So long as it can help customers pass the time, it is a great way to get people to remember your business.

Stay Flexible And Learn To Adapt

If you want to market your small business during the coronavirus pandemic, it is important that you remain flexible. You can never tell what will happen next during this pandemic and you need to be on your toes for any changes that may affect your business. Learn how to adapt with these changes and be as flexible as you can for your customers who may need your services during this time.

It is unclear as to when things will go back to normal and for small businesses, this uncertainty can be disturbing. However, utilizing the best strategy available, like the ones above, can definitely make a difference and reduce the losses your business may be having due to the pandemic. See which of these tips above can help you and faithfully cultivate them because when you do, you will see things improve gradually.

Ooooops!! My Personal Brand Was Showing!!

I first encountered the term “personal brand” over a decade ago.  At the time, I worked with an individual who could always be counted upon to incorporate the latest “buzz words” and concepts into his daily interactions.  The two of us were meeting with our boss at the time, and he made a passing reference to the personal brand I had established for myself, which included certain work habits we had been discussing in general terms.  After the meeting (and getting over my initial reaction of, “Huh?!”), I went back to my desk and started running some Internet searches to better understand the way in which working long hours, caring about grammar, and having a certain overall love of words had created a so-called personal brand for myself that apparently led other employees to expect to see those qualities in me even before I was formally introduced to them.

What did my search results yield?

Identify Your Personal Brand

Note: If this article is seeming familiar, you are right. We published the same piece under a different headline recently (see the original). We are republishing under a different one as part of a test to see which approach attracts the most attention. Feel free to offer any comments at the end of this story.

My co-workers were right.  A person can, indeed, consciously and/or unconsciously create “personal brand” qualities by regularly professing belief in those values and trying to support those words with accompanying actions on a regular basis.

In this instance, I was very fortunate because I was not the least bit uncomfortable with my so-called brand profile, which (while hardly very charismatic or exciting) was nevertheless useful in an occupational environment and had me liking the description well enough to try my best to sustain this image over time. 

The lesson to be learned from this message?

Whether you are aware or not, you may already have a personal brand.  If you do, learn what the brand is.  If you are content with the brand you discover, find ways to reinforce that image in people’s minds.  If you are not happy with the perception of you, begin to plot a strategy to create a more desirable personal brand.

Just remember – as is the case with all branding – the one you attempt to create must resonate with others and be consistent with their experience of you.  Otherwise, the brand won’t be “sticky” enough to last.

Official Definitions (as found on personalbrand.com)

Personal Brand: “A personal brand is a widely-recognized and largely-uniform perception or impression of an individual based on their experience, expertise, competencies, actions and/or achievements within a community, industry, and/or marketplace at large.”

Personal Branding: “The conscious and intentional effort to create and influence public perception of an individual by positioning them as an authority in their industry, elevating their credibility, and differentiating themselves from the competition to ultimately advance their career, increase their circle of influence, and have a larger impact.”

BTW – Yes, I know the above definitions have some grammatical agreement issues, but using a direct quote means you reproduce as is.  (However, I’m including this thought to show you one of the ways in which I can reinforce my personal brand, which includes being a bit of a grammarian!!)

Why Bother?  What Can a Personal Brand Do for Your Small Business?

When someone is closely identified with a company, the personal brand of that individual and the brand of the business tend to interact and merge.

For example . . .

When I hear the name of the international corporate conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway, I see the face of Warren Buffett, not any of the names and logos of the hundreds of companies owned by the parent.  Consequently, Berkshire’s brand has become – at least in part – synonymous with the personal brand of Mr. Buffett (a no-nonsense image based on facts and accomplishments, a brand willing to live by results . . . not expectations, a brand that embodies basic fundamental values, and a brand that is not swayed by transient fads).

Just check out the web site at www.berkshirehathaway.com.  Simple.  Basic.  Not self-Important.  Relying upon substance, not style to win audience.

Need another example?

Apple and Steve Jobs.  If Microsoft and Bill Gates define the mainstream, Apple and Jobs were the contrarians that carved out a place – in part – by excelling at qualities not associated with the mainstream, including personal style and individual ease of use.  In other words, Jobs’ personality merged with Apple’s identity.

Consider the small businesses you have known.  I suspect that many (if not most) of these companies have a brand that reflects many of the same qualities as the owner.  Therefore, efforts to build your company’s brand can be enhanced by attempts to establish your own personal brand.

How Can You Go About Building Your Personal Brand?

You start by making sure you live the qualities you want associated with you personally.  Otherwise, the brand won’t resonate and won’t stick.  Then, you can consider taking some very conscious actions to cement your brand:

  • Embrace networking.  Use every opportunity to meet people and introduce yourself and your brand.
  • Grow your online presence.  Use blogs, forums, and social media (such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) to create a voice and personality for your brand.
  • Ask for recommendations.  Testimonials are a great way of creating trust and enhancing the authenticity of your brand.
  • Get featured in the media.  Position yourself as an expert in your field and make yourself available to reporters.  Over time, more and more will turn to you for comments.
  • Participate in forums, conferences, and events that feature your area of expertise.  Personal contacts of this kind will get your name and face out and into the public eye.

Remember, you must live your brand consistently and practice these strategies regularly.  Some people even find the act of creating personal vision and mission statements to be useful.  Regardless, your goal is to create an identity that will stay associated with you over time, though you should make sure your personal brand continues to evolve and change as the world does.

Bottom line – A Quote from Pia Silva

“With so much content and so many small businesses popping up online, a brand that connects to a person’s face is much easier to trust faster.  It takes less time and effort to build a relationship with a personal brand as compared to a business brand.”

Personal Brand(ing) – Another Way to Build Your Small Business

I first encountered the term “personal brand” over a decade ago.  At the time, I worked with an individual who could always be counted upon to incorporate the latest “buzz words” and concepts into his daily interactions.  The two of us were meeting with our boss at the time, and he made a passing reference to the personal brand I had established for myself, which included certain work habits we had been discussing in general terms.  After the meeting (and getting over my initial reaction of, “Huh?!”), I went back to my desk and started running some Internet searches to better understand the way in which working long hours, caring about grammar, and having a certain overall love of words had created a so-called personal brand for myself that apparently led other employees to expect to see those qualities in me even before I was formally introduced to them.

What did my search results yield?

Identify Your Personal Brand

My co-workers were right.  A person can, indeed, consciously and/or unconsciously create “personal brand” qualities by regularly professing belief in those values and trying to support those words with accompanying actions on a regular basis.

In this instance, I was very fortunate because I was not the least bit uncomfortable with my so-called brand profile, which (while hardly very charismatic or exciting) was nevertheless useful in an occupational environment and had me liking the description well enough to try my best to sustain this image over time. 

The lesson to be learned from this message?

Whether you are aware or not, you may already have a personal brand.  If you do, learn what the brand is.  If you are content with the brand you discover, find ways to reinforce that image in people’s minds.  If you are not happy with the perception of you, begin to plot a strategy to create a more desirable personal brand.

Just remember – as is the case with all branding – the one you attempt to create must resonate with others and be consistent with their experience of you.  Otherwise, the brand won’t be “sticky” enough to last.

Official Definitions (as found on personalbrand.com)

Personal Brand: “A personal brand is a widely-recognized and largely-uniform perception or impression of an individual based on their experience, expertise, competencies, actions and/or achievements within a community, industry, and/or marketplace at large.”

Personal Branding: “The conscious and intentional effort to create and influence public perception of an individual by positioning them as an authority in their industry, elevating their credibility, and differentiating themselves from the competition to ultimately advance their career, increase their circle of influence, and have a larger impact.”

BTW – Yes, I know the above definitions have some grammatical agreement issues, but using a direct quote means you reproduce as is.  (However, I’m including this thought to show you one of the ways in which I can reinforce my personal brand, which includes being a bit of a grammarian!!)

Why Bother?  What Can a Personal Brand Do for Your Small Business?

When someone is closely identified with a company, the personal brand of that individual and the brand of the business tend to interact and merge.

For example . . .

When I hear the name of the international corporate conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway, I see the face of Warren Buffett, not any of the names and logos of the hundreds of companies owned by the parent.  Consequently, Berkshire’s brand has become – at least in part – synonymous with the personal brand of Mr. Buffett (a no-nonsense image based on facts and accomplishments, a brand willing to live by results . . . not expectations, a brand that embodies basic fundamental values, and a brand that is not swayed by transient fads).

Just check out the web site at www.berkshirehathaway.com.  Simple.  Basic.  Not self-Important.  Relying upon substance, not style to win audience.

Need another example?

Apple and Steve Jobs.  If Microsoft and Bill Gates define the mainstream, Apple and Jobs were the contrarians that carved out a place – in part – by excelling at qualities not associated with the mainstream, including personal style and individual ease of use.  In other words, Jobs’ personality merged with Apple’s identity.

Consider the small businesses you have known.  I suspect that many (if not most) of these companies have a brand that reflects many of the same qualities as the owner.  Therefore, efforts to build your company’s brand can be enhanced by attempts to establish your own personal brand.

How Can You Go About Building Your Personal Brand?

You start by making sure you live the qualities you want associated with you personally.  Otherwise, the brand won’t resonate and won’t stick.  Then, you can consider taking some very conscious actions to cement your brand:

  • Embrace networking.  Use every opportunity to meet people and introduce yourself and your brand.
  • Grow your online presence.  Use blogs, forums, and social media (such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) to create a voice and personality for your brand.
  • Ask for recommendations.  Testimonials are a great way of creating trust and enhancing the authenticity of your brand.
  • Get featured in the media.  Position yourself as an expert in your field and make yourself available to reporters.  Over time, more and more will turn to you for comments.
  • Participate in forums, conferences, and events that feature your area of expertise.  Personal contacts of this kind will get your name and face out and into the public eye.

Remember, you must live your brand consistently and practice these strategies regularly.  Some people even find the act of creating personal vision and mission statements to be useful.  Regardless, your goal is to create an identity that will stay associated with you over time, though you should make sure your personal brand continues to evolve and change as the world does.

Bottom line – A Quote from Pia Silva

“With so much content and so many small businesses popping up online, a brand that connects to a person’s face is much easier to trust faster.  It takes less time and effort to build a relationship with a personal brand as compared to a business brand.”

Role of Advertising in Successful Branding

When some people hear the word branding, they automatically picture advertising campaigns aimed at familiarizing the world with the merits of a specific product (i.e., a brand).  While advertising can certainly play a part in successful branding, this article will start by asking a basic question that should help provide perspective: 

Do you need to run ads to build a successful brand?

The answer, of course, is “NO.”

In fact, traditional advertising can be a pretty expensive proposition – the equivalent of using a cannon to kill a mosquito.  (Well-known national magazines can charge six figures per placement for an ad.  According to The Balance Everyday, “The cost of running a full-page, four-color ad in Vogue is $180,324 as of 2019.”)

That said, a consistent, modest, investment in an ad campaign overtime can make a difference in the success of branding your small business.  You just need to be smart about the way you pick and manage your effort.

  • Find ad vehicles that specifically serve your targeted audience. For instance, trade publications are frequently less expensive than general-interest vehicles . . . and typically speak more directly to your audience. (Think of a three- or four-figure cost per placement as opposed to five or six.)
  • Don’t see the costs stated on a rate card and assume that’s the amount you must spend.  Special packages can often be negotiated that reflect considerable savings – especially in return for a long-term commitment.  (Worst case – You have nothing to lose by asking!!)
  • Have realistic expectations.  Since advertising is not cheap, you naturally expect a sizeable return on your investment.  However, conversion rates tend to be low.  (Just search the Internet for the term “ad conversion rates” to glance through some of the discouraging measures being discussed.)  If you have a clear sense of what an ad can and cannot contribute to your business, you will manage the effort more successfully.
  • Set up systems to track the performance of your campaign.  Unless you have a way of identifying those leads originating from your ads, you’ll never know whether or not you’ve been successful.  For example, use the contact information included in the ad to channel responses (perhaps offering a specific phone extension appearing only in an ad to route calls or creating a special Internet landing page to collect ad inquiries). 
  • Understand that size matters . . . as well as frequency and originality in determining just how well an ad campaign performs.   For example, don’t expect to reach a significant portion of your potential audience from a single appearance of an ad.  Perhaps after three placements you can assume you’ve been seen by everyone likely to pay attention.  Rem:  Every ad faces a tremendous amount of competition and clamor to gain even part of the attention of your audience.  Frequency, including duration, can help ensure that your message is eventually seen as well as size (much harder to miss a full-page ad than a quarter!).  Furthermore, the quality of the creative does play an important part – you want an ad that refuses to be ignored perhaps because the headline or artwork is so arresting that a person just cannot flip the page without looking.
  • Contemplate the use of different media, knowing that tastes vary greatly.  Some people will only see or hear a video or audio ad, totally oblivious to messages in print.  Similarly, you probably want to include a mix of print and online advertising to reach the greatest possible audience.  Typically, you should plan an ad campaign, not just an ad.  In other words, build a multimedia effort for the greatest possible likelihood of success.  Run ads that are reinforced by web site messages, supported with direct mail, enhanced by telemarketing and events, etc.  You want to get your message out in as many ways as possible to ensure the widest possible reach AND support your investment of ad dollars.
  • Follow through.  Ads alone seldom consummate a sale.  Typically, an ad will generate some interest that requires further contact in a timely way with additional information and the superior customer service needed to close a sale.  The success of your ad campaign may, in fact, hinge on the careful orchestration and preparation given to your follow-up efforts.

So . . . how much of my annual budget should be devoted to marketing in general and advertising in particular?

I will not even try to offer a general answer to that question.  (If you search the Internet, I’m sure you’ll find a percent of gross revenue quoted as a recommendation of the Small Business Administration.  However, you’ll also see lots of opinions that state that benchmark is not good enough in all circumstances.  However, be aware that your marketing budget must cover a multitude of activities:  advertising, public relations, promotions, social media, sponsorships, collateral, events, etc.)

That said, I will offer an example from my personal experience.  I worked for a company that – during a period of 25% per year growth in sales – had a modest advertising budget that was national in scope, relied heavily upon regional trade publications (over three dozen in fact), and never came close to the kinds of expenses I’ve seen associated with ad budget recommendations.  So, you CAN make advertising work for you by being careful and managing all aspects of the process.

Since much more can and should be said about advertising, we have two additional articles planned on (1) the basic elements needed when creating an ad and (2) the preparation of content for on-line advertising, including a breakdown of the various sizes you need to accommodate when developing your ad copy.

Branding and Marketing, Promotion, or Advertising Campaign (Re)Launches

Whether you are in the early stages of marketing, promoting, and advertising a new business or are about to reintroduce yourself to the world (a necessity that could be created by a variety of circumstances ranging from a great new product or service to a need to come back in a somewhat altered form from a national pandemic), a typical group of activities are usually considered:

  • Advertising via online and/or print publications
  • Press releases announcing your presence and/or highlighting a change
  • Direct mail/e-mail to existing and/or prospective customers
  • Social media postings to highlight important details and communicate news
  • Special events

To reach out to the largest possible audience in a coordinated way with a consistent message and visual component, basic branding practices are key.  As you embark upon your campaign, we suggest you read the following blog entries . . . and keep checking back as we post new material on topics such as:  building your own ads; properly preparing artwork for various print and online media outlets; understanding the role and use of paid search and ad words as an advertising tool;  etc.

When read together, the articles shown below provide a branding tutorial relevant to marketing campaigns. (By the way, we are always interested in hearing from you and will carefully consider special requests to cover specific topics; either use the form at the bottom of this page to deliver your message or send us an e-mail at brandbuildingforsmallbusiness@gmail.com.)

General –

Important Branding Background

The Role of a Brand Style Guide

BEFORE YOU BEGIN YOUR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING EFFORTS, take the time to create/review a style guide that puts into writing the most basic rules that must be observed to properly build the visual elements of your new campaign.

  Note:  Helpful downloadable tools/templates are included.

Create a Branding Activity Calendar (Template Included)

Your marketing/advertising campaign is almost certainly going to involve a variety of multi-media components – many of which are already included on our sample Branding Activity Calendar that could also be used to coordinate the various elements you’ve incorporated into your promotional campaign.  (The template we’ve provided allows you to add the specific activities associated with your effort.)

In Search of the Holy Grail (of Branding)

Why does branding matter when your current focus is to launch your new sales campaign?  Why get distracted by the time, effort, and resources needed to make sure your advertising and marketing efforts reflect your chosen branding?  This article (as well as the one below) answers that question!

Free (and Needed) Tools

Design Resources

These articles provide tips on finding some of the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) tools needed to build your own ads and other marketing and promotional materials.

FREE Pictures Are Also Worth a 1,000 Words (and Can Help Promote Your Brand)!

Finding the Right Font: A Review of the Best Available Font Viewers

Overview of
Marketing and Promotional Activities

Direct Mail/Email

These pieces discuss the content and crafting of your direct mail message (including the document to be mailed/emailed) as well as the mechanics of obtaining your list and building your database of recipients.

Press Releases

These blog entries discuss the topics, voice, audience, format, and outlets to utilize in incorporating press releases into your marketing activities.  Samples are provided.

Social Media

The following articles cover various aspects of building a social media presence – from creating profiles on platforms such as Facebook and Pinterest to strategies used to identify appropriate content.  As an added bonus, we provide tools helpful in promoting your social media accounts, including templates.  (Last but not least, we address tools for requesting customer reviews so you won’t forget the importance of that aspect of social media.)

Worth Another Look at this Time

Branding involves far more than just creating a few recognizable visual elements.  Customer Service is always at the heart of your brand.  Taking a close look at this time helps identify those branding qualities that will resonate with your audience and are, therefore, worth promoting.  Then, be sure to take all of the necessary steps to ensure that your customer service systems are properly tuned to support the front end of your sales efforts.  Once you are successful, remember the value of repeat customers by immediately thanking them for their business.

Branding Through Customer Service

How to Create a Branded Thank You Card for Your Business in Microsoft Word

Is Brand a Scam . . . or the Real Deal?

Before a business owner invests the time, energy, and resources to systematically build a brand, some skeptics need to be persuaded that all this talk about branding is not a scam on the part of ad agencies and other marketers out to make money.

For starters, no less an authority of the business world than renown entrepreneur Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway fame was recently quoted as saying about the power of brands:  “Give me a $10 billion budget and ask me to bring out another Coca-Cola that makes a dent in Coca-Cola and I can’t do it.”  By inference, this statement seems to suggest that the branding of Coca Cola has a value of at least $10 billion (perhaps more).

Frankly, branding has a longer history than most people realize.

Do an Internet search for the term “history of branding,” and you get an extremely wide variety of responses.  Some talk about the cattle branding done in the 19th century wild west. An organization called Skyward traces the origins back further, saying, “The term derives from the Old Norse word brandr or ‘to burn,’ and refers to the practice of branding livestock, which dates back more than 4,000 years to the Indus Valley.”

Most sources seem to agree that some form of the concept can be attributed to the Egyptians (and ancient B.C. times) with some credit being given to the Chinese, the Greeks, the Romans, and more due to the marks put on items such as pottery to provide information about the creator and creations.  (For a good historical overview, read Skyward’s essay, “What Is Branding? A Brief History” found at https://www.skyword.com/contentstandard/branding-brief-history/.)

Obviously, the term branding has assumed a much different and more complex identity during the second half of the 20th century.  As Taylor Holland notes in the Skyward essay, “The meaning of the word has evolved so much over the centuries that even people who do it for a living have never made the connection between modern marketing and livestock.”

Contemporary branding is a 20th century phenomenon.  The advertising industry is generally credited with broadening the definition to include establishment of a corporate identity and promotion of sales.  During the “Golden Age of Advertising” in the 1950’s and 60’s, the concept started to encompass the creation of a unique personality for products – giving them qualities that often elicited an emotional response that helped foster brand loyalty.

More recently, we have seen the concept expand even further to focus on something called “the brand experience” with customer service and ease of use playing increasingly prominent roles in effective branding.  (For a quick overview of this process of evolution, see “20 milestones in the history of branding” – https://www.creativebloq.com/branding/milestones-history-branding-91516855.)

So . . . What Conclusions Can Be Drawn?

If the act of branding is, indeed, an elaborate scam, the charade is one that dates back thousands of years, has hoodwinked one of the 20th century’s most astute businessmen, and has evolved to reflect the needs of a changing world.  While the act of branding has certainly become more complicated (as has the modern world), the process still involves quick identification of a product through visual symbols such as a logo and the association of those symbols with positive attributes.  These characteristics will, in turn, always be useful to companies that must continually reprove themselves to their existing customers . . . while constantly being on the lookout for new ones.

Not Convinced?

Perhaps you are one of those people who need some numbers before you can believe.  For instance:
“Consistent branding across all channels increases revenue by 23%.”
From 80+ Branding Statistics You Should Know For 2020
– Ryan McCready, June 19, 2019.

If you are one of them, check out these 80 facts and many others found in articles made available by searching “data proving the importance of branding.”

Press Release to Introduce Ourselves as Part of National Small Business Week in May

In an earlier article (Press Releases as Another Opportunity for Branding), we promised to do our first press release on Brand Building for Small Business, using the occasion of National Small Business Week May 3rd through May 9th to formally announce our blog – believing we now have enough content across many basic business areas to warrant introducing ourselves.

brandbuildingforsmallbusiness.com/2019/12/26/press-releases-as-another-opportunity-for-branding/(opens in a new tab)

With the dual hook of this national celebration plus the rollout of our site as a free resource to the targeted audience, we believe we have enough substance to interest an editor. 

Selecting our media targets on a budget was not easy.  For this initial round, we have contacted about a dozen business journals (all of which serve a substantial small business readership) and an inexpensive distribution channel – IssueWire.com – that also circulates the first press release free.  Clearinghouses such as this one can be very useful in getting the message out to a broader audience, though in a less targeted way than developing your own list of carefully selected publications.  That said, this approach makes the processing of releases much easier, and feedback about the distribution is tracked and easily accessible.  In addition to the most basic level of distribution, several special promotions can be added (at an extra cost) that target social media connections and Google search.

Our goal – we hope to gradually increase the readership of our blog and gain some valuable reader insights.

We will keep you posted about our results . . . and will write a follow-up article on the analysis of the results.  Until then, feel free to review our press release piece and provide us with any feedback in the comment section below.

Read our press release.

https://brandbuildingforsmallbusiness.files.wordpress.com/2020/02/celebrating-national-small-business-week-in-may-new-branding-resource-for-small-businesses-issuewire.pdf

Special Note:
Brand Building for Small Business has been identified by Feedspot (www.Feedspot.com) as one of the Top 100 Branding Blogs. Feedspot provides “the most comprehensive list of branding blogs on the Internet” so we are pleased to be part of that group.  To learn more, visit https://blog.feedspot.com/branding_blogs/.

In Search of the Holy Grail (of Branding)

In Search of . . .

Customer Loyalty!

Why is this quality so very important . . . and the ultimate goal of all branding activity?

Once you achieve customer loyalty, consumers will:

  • Choose your product or service over others . . . regardless of your competitors’ behavior.
  • Select you without price shopping . . . and perhaps even be willing to pay a bit more.
  • Become repeat buyers – often for years and potentially crossing multiple generations (an impressive brand success).
  • Recognize your product by your logo and other branding elements without a reference to your name. 
  • Become your best sales force – promoting your product/service through word of mouth.
  • Expect you to make good on brand promises – those qualities you have promoted that have resonated with your audience.
  • Present you with growth opportunities – in part through cross sales.

In other words, once you have achieved customer loyalty, your sales acquisition costs should decrease significantly because less marketing and sales expense should be required to generate the desired revenue.

So . . . How Do You Create Brand Loyalty . . . and Avoid Getting Lost in the Crowd?

While I’m sure you’ve heard about (and probably been pitched) loyalty/incentive programs, such tools are just one of many that are available.

Note:  Loyalty programs encourage shoppers to return to stores where they frequently make purchases. Some of the incentives may include advanced access to new products, additional discounts, or sometimes free merchandise. Customers typically register their personal information with the company and are given a unique identifier, such as a numerical ID or membership card, and use that identifier when making a purchase. (Investopedia) Want to learn more?  Check out these seven examples of some of the best:  https://www.leadquizzes.com/blog/7-examples-of-customer-loyalty-programs/

That said . . .

Instead of focusing on those prepackaged plans, you really just need to expend your energy on building a great brand and consistently promoting your strengths via consistent implementation of the basic branding elements you’ve put into place. Specifically, you should:

  • Provide a customer service experience that reflects your brand. 
  • Utilize social media to establish an online presence.
  • Build a visual brand identity that reflects your products/services and overall operations . . . so the message you are trying to send reflects reality and stands a chance of resonating with your audience.
  • Establish credibility (and trustworthiness) by making good on your brand promises.
  • Incorporate best practices in all that you do AND be the best.
  • Know your audience and make sure your products/services satisfy their needs . . . even as those needs may change.
  • Maintain strict consistency in your spoken, written, and visual message – enhancing recognition.
  • Focus on creating loyal, repeat customers who will continue to frequent your business.  (Why so important . . . ?)

THE LAW OF THE VITAL FEWThe Pareto Principle states that 80% of your company’s future revenue will come from 20% of your current customer base, making it imperative that you focus on creating loyal, repeat customers that will continue to frequent your business. (Written by the Forbes Agency Council)

  • Make positive contributions to society part of your culture.  (To do so can enhance the environmental, social, and governance aspects of your operations, which in turn, enhances the sustainability of your success.)
  • Add extra value above and beyond the basic product/service provided.
  • Check in with your customers regularly via surveys, conversations (research groups), calls, etc. AND really listen to them.

Don’t Be Brand X!

If your business has achieved customer loyalty, you’ve mastered one of the key measures of success – your products and services are no longer generic (. . . and interchangeable) in the eyes of you audience.  You are no longer just another Brand X!  You have a personality and identity; you’ve established a relationship with your customer.

As this article suggests, this goal is accomplished in many ways, including a consistent, well-developed branding program that sends a clear message to your intended audience.

Special Note:
Brand Building for Small Business has been identified by Feedspot (www.Feedspot.com) as one of the Top 100 Branding Blogs. Feedspot provides “the most comprehensive list of branding blogs on the Internet” so we are pleased to be part of that group.  To learn more, visit https://blog.feedspot.com/branding_blogs/.

FREE Pictures Are Also Worth a 1,000 Words (and Can Help Promote Your Brand)!

Special Note:
Brand Building for Small Business has been identified by Feedspot (www.Feedspot.com) as one of the Top 100 Branding Blogs. Feedspot provides “the most comprehensive list of branding blogs on the Internet” so we are pleased to be part of that group.  To learn more, visit https://blog.feedspot.com/branding_blogs/.

So . . . where do you find those free pix?

The preparation of branding materials involves a strong visual element — both your own carefully designed logo AND very often a context-specific supporting image.  While customized artwork is almost always best (whether you are talking about a photo taken to mark an occasion or a specially designed illustration), such efforts typically involve so much time and effort that supporting “stock” pix and drawings are often the only practical alternative to satisfy time-and-financial constraints.

I remember my feelings of panic the first time I had to complete a project without the benefit of a corporate stock image subscription and had a deadline but no budget – and just a single question to be answered for myself:

WHAT DO I DO?!?

Ever Explore Wiki Commons?

Wiki can very often provide a great alternative place to find supporting A/V files – both audio and visual.  As the illustration below suggests, these 50 million plus images are stored in well-catalogued and easy to find locations at various technical specifications.

What you need to know . . .

“Wikimedia Commons is a media file repository making available public domain and freely-licensed educational media content (images, sound and video clips) to everyone, in their own language. It acts as a common repository for the various projects of the Wikimedia Foundation, but you do not need to belong to one of those projects to use media hosted here. . . .

Launched on 7 September 2004, Wikimedia Commons hit the 1,000,000 uploaded media file milestone on 30 November 2006 and currently contains 58,541,226 files and 57,473,117 media collections. . . .

Unlike traditional media repositories, Wikimedia Commons is free. Everyone is allowed to copy, use and modify any files here freely as long as they follow the terms specified by the author; this often means crediting the source and author(s) appropriately and releasing copies/improvements under the same freedom to others. The license conditions of each individual media file can be found on their description page. The Wikimedia Commons database itself and the texts in it are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License. More information on re-use can be found at Commons: Reusing content outside Wikimedia and Commons: First steps/Reuse.”

While much free content is available, you need (as mentioned above) to familiarize yourself with copyright or attribution issues that could be relevant to a specific image.  Often, the creator will allow usage at no charge but will very reasonably want to be given credit for authorship.  To be safe and in full compliance, study the licensing information made available at the Wiki site.

Other Places to Look

Frankly, the Internet provides access to an unbelievable wealth of image resources.  For example, I recently searched for the term: “Best Free Images of 2019.”  The following list was produced:

As you can see, a combination of “stock” photos, illustrations, videos, and sound files are available, and the resource can be more than adequate in addressing your needs.  (You can also find that some paid stock sites offer some very reasonable terms, especially for single images that might be the most suitable for a specific situation.)

While I have not had a chance yet to explore all of these sites at great depth, the very first resource I (gratefully!!) stumbled upon was “Unsplash,” which I highly recommend and found to be quite extensive and well organized with a good search function.  While free, optional attribution is appreciated but not required.  The images themselves are of an excellent quality and professionally prepared to meet most technical specifications you’d encounter.  As I go through others on the list, I expect to find many of them capable of meeting and/or exceeding your typical requirements.

When using these images, I presume most of you have an application  that can handle (and manipulate) these files.  If not, note the vector-based page-layout program Carole recommended in her article on logos – “Design Your Own Logo” (https://brandbuildingforsmallbusiness.com/2019/09/08/brand-basics-part-2-design-your-own-logo/).  Almost all computers now come with a package for manipulating photos (for example:  Microsoft’s Paint program).

A Picture Is (Sometimes) Worth a Thousand Words

 A visual element is always an extremely useful tool in almost any activity involving branding.  Images contain content that reinforce your message to your target audience . . . while artistic aspects of the image offer a message of their own about your style, expertise, and sensibility. 

Note:  The criteria you use for selecting images is sufficiently important to your brand to become part of your “Style Guide.”  That portion of the document should spell out image do’s and don’ts to be sure pictures reinforce the brand message you are working to create.

That said, never overlook the opportunity to incorporate custom artwork by taking photos (your phone likely has a great camera always available for that purpose) or even building an illustration of your own!!